March 23, 2012 – When I first started doing marketing automation integrated within Dynamics CRM, the only thing I cared about was email tracking. That is, after sending a marketing email, knowing which emails were delivered or bounced, which ones were opened or clicked through, and so forth. But the more marketing I do, the more I appreciate the importance of other features as a complement to email tracking, and one of those – analytics – is the topic of this article.

I use (and highly recommend) the ClickDimensions marketing automation solution, which lives inside Dynamics CRM and provides visualizations like the following one:

That figure illustrates the form of the Email Send entity (or in non-PC terms, the Email Blast), and the fact that all of those events (Delivered, Opens, Clicks, Bounces, etc.) are associated with contact records is what we mean by email tracking and like I said, when I first started out that was what mattered.

Why Analytics Matter

But the longer I do marketing automation the more I appreciate the importance of other feature areas. For example, ClickDimensions (CD) provides its customers with some tracking script (analogous to what you might get for Google Analytics), and you can embed it in your web site’s HTML to track activity such as site visits and page views. The tight integration of the CD solution with CRM means that visits and page views are implemented as custom entities, so after turning on the tracking script you can see things like the following figure, which shows several records of the Visits type.

The highlighted columns are Lead and Contact, and begin to illustrate why the analytics features are so important as a complement to email tracking. If all your web site traffic was anonymous, you might as well use Google Analytics. But the ability to associate visits and page views with your customer or potential customer records is a powerful thing, and I’ll show you a specific example of this next.

The Importance of Being Non-Anonymous

A visitor to your web site might view multiple pages. The previous figure showed several Visit records, and you can probably guess that ClickDimensions also provides a Page View record type. And as with visits, the distinction between anonymous and non-anonymous page views is an important one. I get a dramatic reminder of this every time I send out one of my Dynamics CRM News You Can Use emails. For example, the most recent was the Convergence 2012 edition, which went out on March 22. The next most recent was the February 2012 email, sent on Feb. 29. (Thank goodness this was a leap year!)

The easiest way for CD to associate a page view with a contact is when the page view is from a link in a sent email. So I suppose it’s not surprising that non-anonymous page views spike immediately after an email goes out. In my experience, though, the non-obvious thing is the importance of the non-anonymous (contact) views in driving overall page views.

You can see this phenomenon in the following table.

The top chart represents all page views, by day, for the last 30 days. The bottom chart represents, for the same time period, a subset of page views: only the ones from contacts.

Those two charts are from a custom dashboard I built (which again illustrates the importance of the tight integration of CD with CRM: page views is a custom entity, so you can build charts and dashboards, custom workflows, and use all the standard customization techniques). The most obvious fact is how page views by contacts spike after an email goes out. (I know it’s hard to read; the last two emails I sent out account for the spikes on 2/29 and 3/22.) The less obvious one is how those contact views impact overall page views. Almost invariably, the days with the most overall page views are the same as the ones with the most contact page views, and that pattern holds true for the time period in the table.

Another slice of the same data is by page, and an example of this is shown in the following table.

The top chart shows the top ten pages on my blog, stack-ranked by number of page views for the last seven days. The data set for this chart includes all
page views. The bottom chart is the same, except for a different subset of the data: only page views associated with a contact record.

The highlighted bars represent page views for the Convergence 2012 Highlights page. That page’s share of all page views is about 15% for the last week, but its share of pages viewed by contacts is well over half. This has a couple of possible interpretations: either my contacts are more interested in the Convergence 2012 Highlights session than anonymous visitors, or the email blast (that included about ten links to the Convergence Highlights session landing page) was effective. Or a combination of the two.

Either way, it’s good to know, and it’s the sort of thing you really can’t know without thoroughly integrating your marketing automation and customer relationship management efforts.